Indian American Kiran Ahuja, who has served as the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since 2009, is moving on.
The Initiative made the announcement in a statement Nov. 4.
Ahuja joined the WHIAAPI in December 2009 and “cobbled together a dynamic staff from multiple agencies,” according to a news release by the Initiative’s co-chairs, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Ahuja traveled the country and convened regional summits and round-table meetings, mobilizing communities and engaging many federal agencies, all with an eye on improving policies affecting AAPI communities, the release added.
The Murthy-Duncan statement added, “Where there were challenges, (Ahuja) surmounted them. Where there were opportunities, (she) magnified them. She marshaled a presidentially-appointed commission; established an inter-agency working group across 30 agencies; built a regional network comprising 250 regional federal staff; and leveraged a million-dollar philanthropic investment to support AAPI communities.”
On her watch, Ahuja has helped under-served AAPI citizens gain access to federal resources and provide AAPI organizations and leaders a voice to bring about change.
Some of her work has directly translated into AAPIs getting college degrees and better-paying jobs, previously uninsured family healthcare, language access services, and a seat at a government round table to speak on behalf of the AAPI people.
After six years, Ahuja is moving on to a new role as the chief of staff at the United States Office of Personnel Management. Doua Thor will assume her executive director role.
“While we will miss Kiran, we are certain that her outstanding work ethic and commitment to excellence will lead her to succeed anywhere, and we wish her only the best in her new position,” the statement added.
The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development executive director Lisa Hasegawa added, “Asian American and Pacific Islanders have benefited greatly from Kiran Ahuja’s leadership over the years. She has been a strong champion within the administration for our communities. Ms. Ahuja has been a great partner with National CAPACD and has been highly supportive of our policy priorities… We look forward to working with her in her new capacity to ensure that our government workforce truly reflects the diversity of our nation.”
Ahuja was the founding executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum from 2003 to 2008, building it from an all-volunteer organization to one with a paid professional staff.
Born in India, Ahuja grew up in Savannah, Ga. She attended Spelman College for a short time before transferring to the University of Georgia School of Law where she earned her degree.